Posted April 24, 2014, 1:59 pm
Ospreys and turkey vultures are preparing to breed and raise their young
DUTCH JOHN — If you have a case of cabin fever, viewing raptors in northeastern Utah might be the perfect way to cure it.
Spring and summer are the best times of the year to see turkey vultures at Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
Photo by Ron Stewart
From early spring through the summer months, you can watch ospreys and turkey vultures nest, raise their young and feed along the rocky shores of Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
Because ospreys use the same nest sites year after year, the strong base of rock pinnacles at the Gorge provide them with a perfect place to build their nests. The birds arrive in late March and early April.
"The older males usually arrive a couple of weeks before the females," says Ron Stewart, regional conservation outreach manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "As soon as the males arrive, they start making 'home repairs.'"
Both males and females usually return to the nest they used the year before, so pairs can be together for years. "Some nest sites at the Gorge have been used for more than 40 years," he says.
Turkey vultures use a different strategy; they lay their eggs directly on a hidden, rocky shelf. They also nest in colonies, meaning several females may use the same shelf, or a group of shelves that are close to each other. The tall, striated cliffs of Red Canyon provide perfect nesting sites for the vultures.
Several excellent places are available at Flaming Gorge to see the birds. Topping the list are the Dam Peninsula, across the parking lot from the Dam Visitor Center; the Red Canyon Overlook, at the Red Canyon Visitor Center; the Dowd Mountain Overlook; the Dam Overlook; and the Antelope Flat boat ramp.
Several osprey nest sites are near the dam, and some nests are visible from the dam peninsula. From the dam, you can often see ospreys perched on trees or making feeding flights. Turkey vultures nest nearby. The vultures are often seen soaring over the peninsula or perched on power poles.
Stewart says the overlooks are also great viewing spots. Both birds often fly by the edge of the rim, giving visitors an eye-level view.
"Viewing at these areas will only get better in the summer," he says. "That's when young-of-the-year birds join the flights."
Near the Antelope Flat boat ramp is a tall pole. An osprey nest sits on top of it. Ospreys have occupied the nest for several years.
"As long as visitors stay in the parking lot to watch them, the ospreys don't seem to be bothered," Stewart says. "That isn't the case in other areas. If people get too close, the birds will abandon their nests."
If you're looking for a great reason to get outside, Stewart encourages you to grab your camera and some binoculars, and head to the Gorge to watch these birds.
"On your way to some great birding at the Gorge," he says, "don't miss the informational stops along the Flaming Gorge-Uintas National Scenic Byway. The byway is called 'Wildlife Through The Ages.'"
For more information, call the DWR's Northeastern Region office at 435-781-9453.
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